September is World Alzheimer’s Month – an international campaign to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and challenge stigma associated with the condition. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia which affects memory, thinking, problem solving and language.

Greensleeves Care has responded to this challenge by introducing a dementia service at all its care homes including Sharnbrook House in a pretty village of Sharnbrook near Bedford. As part of its dementia service, the charity has changed the way it recruits and trains its staff and has created a dementia friendly culture within all its care homes. The care provided to residents is based on the principles of ‘personhood’ by Dr Tom Kitwood. He identified that all human beings have the need for comfort, attachment, inclusion, occupation and identity. These needs are even more significant for those living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. At Sharnbrook House, staff are recording the residents’ life histories to be able to provide them with a person-centred care. Understanding the person with his/her motivations and interests enables the home to support the residents better through giving them purpose in the life of the home.

One of the residents loved DIY and had a very practical approach to life. His daughter commented that her dad never had any hobbies as he just did jobs around the house, even during weekends. This particular resident was delighted to be asked if he wanted to be part of the maintenance team. Since then, he took part in planning meetings and happily set to work painting the perimeter fence. Other residents admired his work, contributing to the resident’s pride in doing a useful job.

Another resident who used to work at a glamorous restaurant in Mayfair (London) and who is an expert on correct table settings and formal dining, gets pleasure from advising staff how to fold napkins and ‘dress’ the dining room. She also enjoys serving coffee and tea to other residents, readily adopting the role of a hostess.

Pat Laing, Home Manager at Sharnbrook House said: “There is an authenticity about this work which is grounded in these residents’ personalities and life experience, and is an expression of their need to be useful, reinforcing their autonomy and self-worth.”

Sharnbrook House provides residential care but also caters for residents with early onset dementia.